El Tiburón de Salamanca

January 2018 —

As I had never traveled to Spain prior to my semester abroad in the spring of 2018, I was extremely eager to see what was in store for me! Shortly after arriving at the Madrid Barajas Airport I boarded a bus with my fellow program participants to head for the northern city of Salamanca. This was to be a nearly one month stay where we would be at a residency briefly and then head to a host family for the remaining time. It was during this time that we had Spanish language lessons and were to conduct an interview project with the people of the neighbouring village that we were assigned to. 

All along our journey from Madrid to Salamanca I watched how we climbed in elevation and how there was increasingly more mountains in view. Twas so exciting to see the Spanish countryside and to think of all the wonderful experiences that lay ahead. I was nervous, albeit even skeptical how my stay would be with my host family in an unfamiliar city given my small town background.  However, I quickly began to adjust and soon I was walking by myself to and from my language classes, an almost 2 mile walk through the city to the small pueblo of Santa Marta de Tormes. This pueblo was just on the other side of the river from Salamanca, so it was quite literally perfectly situated! 

Sightseeing and Landmarks

As we toured some of the most prominent sites and landmarks in the city, there were several that really caught my attention. They were: La Casa de las Conchas, el Catedral de Salamanca, la Plaza Mayor, and especially el Tiburón. 

La Casa de las Conchas, or the House of Shells, is right in the city square, alongside many little shops and restaurants. It is called this for all along the outside there are beautifully hand carved seashells. Even in a 2D image one can see that they make the building stand out. 

El Catedral de Salamanca, the Salamanca Cathedral, is absolutely magnificent, and still to this day is the most stunning church that I have seen in Europe. As soon as you enter, there are 6ft round columns that stand 60-70 feet tall for as far as the eye can see. It took four of us to wrap our arms around them! There is also a secret frog that is a challenge for visitors to find. This stone frog was carved into the intricate and detailed stone work on the outside walls of the cathedral. 

La Plaza Mayor, the Main Plaza, is perhaps even better than the one in Madrid. It’s character is simply delightful! With quintessential shops staggered below and gorgeous wooden shutters and murals decorating the walls above.  It is well worth walking around and spending an afternoon examining each and every nook and cranny of this plaza. There is also an information center, which has an extremely cool feature! That is, they have Spanish Verb Wheels for only 1 Euro!! If you are learning Spanish this can be an almost invaluable tool!!  I purchased one for my sister and I at the time, but I am sad that I didn’t not buy an extra for myself!! 

El Tiburón, the shark, is the most memorable part of my stay in Salamanca, has a strong symbolical meaning to me. It is a 3D mural painting that is painted on the steps that I walked on just about every day during my stay. As I was still developing my Spanish and learning lots of new words, it was an impressive moment for me to remember this one! One afternoon we were walking, my professor and program director for the Spain Program, Dr. Steven White, stopped us and asked if anyone knew what the word was for ‘shark.’ As it happened, I was the only person to say ‘Tiburón,’ and I remember that Steven was so impressed! 

In this moment I felt truly empowered and thus, el Tiburón will forever remind me of how my empowerment sculpted my motivation and desire to maximize every moment of my semester abroad. This memory is part of my path towards self-construction, and furthermore, has been a vital part of my foundation.

Dining and Fun Facts

During this time, as part of our program, we ate lunch and dinner at many different local restaurants! El menú de día, the Daily Menú, is the way to go if you are on a budget!! It is a dealbreaker for your wallet with most offers anywhere’s from 8-16 euros, depending on what sort of food you are into. This is super common all over Spain, and is quite possibly the best way to go when eating out if you are looking for a complete meal! Eating the menú allows one to get a truly traditional array of Spanish food, which typically includes a drink, bread, a first plate, a second plate, and dessert which usually includes a coffee. Now it is important to realize that the first plate is more like a meal in itself, so add in the second plate with dessert, and you are going to leave very full!!

The other very good option for dining, which is particularly the Spanish way for dinner, is to order Tapas and drinks. Tapas are essentially the same as Hors d’oeuvres. When you normally go out to socialise in Spain you order several Tapas, and then this serves as your dinner, for they are quite filling! Some popular Tapas include: Patatas Bravas which are similar to home fries with a sauce of garlic alioli or a red spicy brava; Croquetas which are similar to large tater tots but usually with a ham and cheese sauce; Jamón Iberico which is paper thin sliced ham from the leg; Pimientos Asados which are roasted peppers; Pulpo which is roasted octopus from Galicia; Calamares Fritos which are fried squid slices; Tortilla de Patata which is an omelette of potato and egg; and many more.

Additionally, during the year I was in Salamanca, 2018, it marked the 800th anniversary of the world renowned Universidad de Salamanca, the University of Salamanca, which is located in the city center. What an amazing feat! It is considered one of the oldest universities in existence! 

If you are planning on visiting Spain, I’d recommend going to Salamanca! You are certain to see lots of unique architecture, pristine views, and hearty Spanish restaurants! 

La Casa de la Conchas from the street looking up.
El Catedral de Salamanca - pictured above is the main dome, and to the right, is the splendour of the main entrance.
La Plaza Mayor de Salamanca at night.
A close up of the mural painting, El Tiburón.
A sample Menú de Día is pictured above, and pictured below are some Tapas on display, as well as a Jamón Iberico store I came across on one of my walks.
A view of my the village where I stayed with my host family, and the distant view of the cathedral as we drove off for Madrid.

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